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The Trans-Labrador Highway, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

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The one road in Labrador which is longer than 20km1 is the Trans-Labrador Highway, which runs about 500km across the province. It is also known as Provincial Highway 500. The highway runs from Happy Valley-Goose Bay in the east, to Churchill Falls in the centre, to Labrador City/Wabush and the Quebec border in the west. From there, one may take the Quebec Provincial Highway 389 to connect with the rest of the North American road network.

Driving the Highway

The highway is unpaved and is mainly gravel- or dirt-covered, for all but about 10km between Labrador City and the Quebec border, and 0.5km near Churchill Falls. The stretch between Labrador City and Churchill Falls is about 220km long, gravel-covered, and fairly easy to drive. However, east of Churchill Falls, the road is actively under construction2, and even when the construction is complete, it still won't be paved.

The western segment of the highway has only been in operation since 1983. Before then, people who wanted to drive their cars from Labrador City to Churchill Falls had to put their cars on an auto-train, which runs northward to the hamlet of Esker. From Esker, there is a road to Churchill Falls.

The eastern segment of the highway is the subject of perpetual travel advice by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. They advise all tourists to allow eight to ten hours to drive the 283km from Churchill Falls to Happy Valley-Goose Bay. At posted speed limits, this trip should take just under five hours. Native Labradorians have been reported to take five-and-a-half hours. This is despite the road consisting mainly of potholes, wherever there isn't heavy machinery blocking the road outright.

Reportedly, one Researcher made it from Labrador City to Churchill Falls in just over two hours, and Churchill Falls to Happy Valley-Goose Bay in five-and-a-half hours. However, he has the advantage of a very small four-wheel-drive sport utility vehicle (SUV). Anything larger would have had trouble making it past construction vehicles which nearly block the road. Anything not four-wheel-drive would have trouble with the mud and anything not an SUV would have trouble with potholes and pieces of wood in the middle of the road.

People have reportedly travelled this highway using everything from bicycles to Dodge Colts and tour buses. However, Newfoundland Tourism advises that an ordinary automobile is not recommended for this route. First choice is a 4X4, second is any truck with good under-clearance.

Things Along the Highway

The only human settlements along the highway, aside from a small private cabin or two, are Labrador City, Churchill Falls and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Each of these communities offer meals, lodging, and petrol (gasoline) for the weary traveller and his, or her, vehicle. However, it is often prudent to make your reservations in advance3. If you're travelling the Trans-Labrador Highway, you probably know where you're spending each night, because you will have no other choice.

Another tip is to bring plenty of money. Petrol costs up to $0.25 more per litre than in the rest of Canada. Other services, while not so grossly expensive, are still more expensive than in the rest of Canada. However, one way to look at it is this: you're just passing through. The natives have to put up with it all the time.

There are no facilities on the highway outside these communities, unless you count the work camps where the highway workers live, and the road is not patrolled. If you brave the highway, you should bring everything you might need if something goes wrong. This includes extra petrol, a spare tyre, and a jack. A wide flat piece of wood to prop the jack on is probably a good idea too; the dirt road provides less than ideal support for a jack.

In summer, a means of repelling insects is also necessary. Black flies abound in the region, and will descend upon you within five minutes of your exiting the car. These insects are said to laugh at insect repellent, so a fly suit (such as the type sold by LL Bean) is the best preventative measure.

1One kilometre is about 0.62 miles.2Information (and prices elsewhere in the entry) correct at the time of writing.3Most hotels along the highway have contact information published on their towns' local web pages.

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